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Sans govt regulation, Kashmir mountains maybe enticing more men to death

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Sep 14: Mountaineering is emerging as the new favourite sport in Kashmir Valley without the government keeping an eye on the often-untrained trekkers taking on the adventure in rising numbers.

The last Friday, a mishap occurred in which Adil Shah and Naveed Shah of Alpine Adventurers Group died after facing rock fall and subsequently fell into a crevice on Kolahoi glacier while descending.

This incident also left another trekker, Haziq Beigh injured.

 

He was later rescued and admitted to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital.

Every year, scores of trekkers go for such expeditions, while there are no rules and regulations to check the credentials of the climbers.

To make the matters worse, the state is yet to have an Adventure Policy.

The Kashmir Monitor spoke to the members who conducted the rescue operation, trekkers, and officials from the Tourism Department about the safety measures to be taken before going any kind of expedition.

Irfan Ahmad, a resident of Aru Pahalgam, who participated in the rescue operation and has climbed the Kolahoi Glacier in 2015, said, “It is not a regular destination, but it is accessible to the mountaineers. The trekkers from the Alpine Group had not taken the conventional route, as it is difficult to climb. May be they were not well-versed with the terrain of the other route.”

He said that trekking and mountaineering are altogether different. The latter requires proper equipment and expertise, he said.

“The climbers should be well trained and equipped for such tours,” Irfan said.

Agents Association of Kashmir (ATOAK) President RoufTramboo, himself a trekker, said there was a nodal agency called ‘Indian Mountaineering Foundation’ to give permissions for mountain climbing.

“They take our credentials, experience, skills into consideration. They have classified the mountains according to their height. Mountains which are up to 6000 meters high don’t require any permission,” he said.

He said that Kolahoi is a technically sound mountain. However, he said there is a moraine section in the glacier in which the path needs to be crossed.

“One has to be sure-footed to cross it,” Tramboo said.

There are many crevasses in the Kolahoi glacier.

However, he said, “Most of them didn’t have any formal training. While climbing this glacier, there comes a patch where you have to negotiate the rocks and you need to be properly roped up, one rope carries around five people which depends on the leader’s decision.”

Tramboo said that the Tourism Department has a recreational wing where people going for the trek need to register themselves.

“The trekkers had not submitted any information over there. Nobody knows which area they chose, and the route they took. They must have negotiated the rocks despite the bad weather. There is no regulatory body, knowing that it is a growing segment of recreation and sport. It should be promoted more among the youngsters,” he said.

“In March 2015, we were a part of international expedition which was organised by Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club.15 and 16 members from Kashmir Valley participated,” he said.

However, former Director Tourism, Mehbood Shah, who himself is a trekker, said that trekkers don’t require any permission for less than 6000 meters and Kolahoi falls in that category.

“The person who was heading this expedition has already climbed 6000 feet. There was no shortage of expertise and equipment. He was at a wrong place at a wrong time. When you confront a rock fall, no amount of training and equipment can save you,” he said.

He said that there are two routes and have their own merits and demerits. “The northern one is full of crevasses. I think it was destined to happen,” he said.

Director Tourism Kashmir, Tasaduq Jeelani, said they had not issued any permission or authorization to anyone for climbing the glacier.

“They have not applied before the climb,” he said.

However, he said that Tourism Department has prepared an Adventure Policy, which is in public domain for the feedback. “Most of the states in India don’t have an adventure policy in place,” he said.

“Once we have Adventure Policy in place, trekkers can register themselves. Insurance policy is there, basic rescue equipment for the climb, medical kit for any injury, dress code for different temperatures have been incorporated in the policy. It is in the final stage and will be implemented soon,” Jeelani added.


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Biz leaders of JK, PaK meet in Tashkent

Appeal India, Pak to resume cross LoC trade

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jun 24: For the first time since the Cross LoC trade was suspended, the business leaders of Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad met in Tashkent and decided to approach the respective governments for early resumption of the trade.

The decision was taken in a three-day conference of the business leaders of both sides of LoC, which is currently underway in the Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Six business leaders representing Chambers of Commerce of Kashmir and Jammu are participating in the conference, which started on Sunday. 

Trade leaders from Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Traders Union Rawalakot are representing the business community of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) in the conference.

 

The three-day meet has been organized by Muzaffarabad-based Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), which works to “promote peace and development at all levels through dialogue, reconciliation and reforms.”

On the second day of the conference on Monday, the traders resolved to convey to their respective governments the need for early resumption of cross LoC trade.

President Kashmir Chamber (KCC&I), Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, while speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Tashkent, said the traders held threadbare deliberations on the resumption and strengthening of the Cross LoC trade.

“It was resolved that all the Chambers will take up the matter related to the reopening of Cross LoC trade with the respective governments,” he said.

On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the Cross-LoC trade in J&K, saying that it was being used for “funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” into the state.

More than 280 traders were hit by the decision. Figures reveal that goods worth Rs 6,900 crore were traded on both sides since the inception of the trade in 2008.

On the alleged transporting of incriminating material through the route, Ahmad said the traders pledged to push their respective governments for framing Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for ensuring greater transparency in the trade.

“We are for the transparency of the trade. Both the countries should frame SOPs wherein necessary measures should be taken to check such activities. It was made amply clear that the traders should concentrate on the trade while as the government must ensure transparency,” he said.

The participants also realised that the suspension of the Cross trade was causing huge losses to the business community on both the sides.

“Traders on both the sides of LoC are incurring huge losses. The Cross LoC trade was the biggest Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. It should be resumed immediately,” said the president, KCC&I.

He said the conference was aimed at exploring all options to ensure hassle-free trade across the border. 

Before suspension, the Cross LoC trade was being carried out for four days a week on both routes—Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote.

Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond the barter system.

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Mehbooba welcomes Hurriyat’s readiness for dialogue

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Srinagar, Jun 24: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed the Hurriyat Conference willingness to hold talks with the Centre saying it was ‘better late than never’.

“Dair aye durust aye [better late than never]. The underlying purpose of the PDP-BJP alliance was to facilitate dialogue between the GoI & all stakeholders. Tried my best to make it happen in my tenure as Chief Minister but relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba said in a tweet.

Mehbooba Mufti was referring to Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s call for a tripartite talk between the Kashmiri leadership, New Delhi and Islamabad for resolution of all issues, including Kashmir.

 

Besides touching on the need for a dialogue during his Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz in his Eid-ul Fitr sermon earlier this month had sought confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan that could facilitate the revival of talks between the two countries.

Governor Satya Pal Malik, while addressing a function in Srinagar on Saturday, had said the Hurriyat had softened its stand and were ready for talks after he took charge of the state in August last year.

“The Hurriyat Conference was not willing to talk. Ram Vilas Paswan was standing at their door (in 2016) but they were not ready to talk. Today, they are ready for talks and want to hold dialogue. There is change in everyone,” Satya Pal Malik said.

The governor’s statement has given rise to speculations that the Centre might be opening dialogue channels with the separatists in Kashmir in near future.

Talks must be held with them: Farooq

Srinagar, Jun 24: Two days after Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Central government, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that talks must be held.

“The Governor says Hurriyat has agreed to talks. Then, talks should be held with them,” Abdullah told the media persons.

Contending that situation in J&K “is changing”, Governor Malik had on June 22 said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Centre.

“The ones who turned back Ram Vilas Paswan from their door, they are now ready for talks. The stone pelting after ‘namaz’ is almost over. We do not like it when a youngster dies,” Malik had said at a function.

“But when a bullet is fired, bullets will be fired in retaliation. That is the reality and this change in stance by them is a welcome sign,” Malik had further added.

He had also acknowledged Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement in which he had expressed concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state.

Within ‘ambit of Constitution’: BJP

Srinagar, Jan 24: BJP’s JK Affairs in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna has said that the Government of India was ready for talks with the Hurriyat ‘within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.’

Khanna also said that this was being done to win the trust of every individual in the state.

“We are open for talks. Hurriyat leaders are own people, they are the residents of J&K so they are most welcome to talk to us including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but within the ambit of Indian constitution,” Khanna said.

Earlier, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that she is relived that Hurriyat has softened their stand regarding talks with the Government of India.

Recently, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s said that Hurriyat is ready for talks.

In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that if Government of India initiates ‘meaningful dialogue’, there will be a ‘positive response’.

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J&K Reservation Bill introduced in LS

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jun 24: People living along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir will get benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in professional courses on par with those living along the Actual Line of Control (ALoC), according to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will replace an ordinance issued by the previous government.

The Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah who was present in the House.

 

Some members from the Opposition wanted to oppose introduction of the bill but speaker Om Birla rejected their demand, saying they had not followed the procedure for doing so.

The bill seeks to provide relief to people living in areas adjoining the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. They can now avail benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.

The bill once passed by Parliament will amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bring persons residing in areas adjoining the IB within the ambit of reservation, on par with those living in areas adjoining the ALoC.

The rules provided for reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories, including residents of areas adjoining ALoC.

Those living in areas adjoining the IB in Jammu and Kashmir were not  included in the ambit of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and Rules, 2005 and were deprived of benefits.

Due to continuous cross-border tensions, people living along the IB suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels residents to move to safer places, which adversely impacts their education as schools and colleges remain closed for long periods.

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